The Northward Expansion of the Kingdom of Urartu and the Historical Geography of the Land of Qulha
Keywords: Kingdom of Urartu, Land of Qulha, Historical Geography, Eastern Anatolia
The desire to control the regions north of Lake Van by the kingdom of Urartu became apparent during its foundation period. Inscriptions related to the ninth century B.C indicate that, following their campaigns waged against tribes called Witeru(he), Lusha and Katarza, the armies of the Urartu expanded as far as the Araxes valley. With the continuation of their campaigns under the reign of Minua, the native Diauehe Kingdom in the Erzurum area was compelled to pay tribute and the land of Erequa in the environs of Iğdır was incorporated into the Urartian kingdom. Under Argişti I, the Urartian armies marched to their furthest possible extent, to regions like Hanak (Ortakent) and Kanlıca where their one-time presence is attested by elaborate inscriptions. Generally speaking, the outline of the northern policy adopted by Argişti I was continued by the Urartian kingdom during the reign of Sarduri II and, in consequence, pressure was increased on areas like Diaueli, Iga(ne), Abiliane, Etiune and Eriahe, to the north and northeast of the Araxes valley. Added to the list of domains raided in this period was the land of Qulha-which entity has been identified, up to the present, with Colchis. Taking the extant inscriptions that contain only the names of places raided and what constituted the booty obtained as witnesses of the campaigns directed against the regions north of the Araxes River, we may state that the expansion of the borders of the kingdom of Urartu reached to the north of Ardahan and even as far as the ancient Colchis region. But the remains of material culture left by the Urartian polity in the highlands of Ardahan in the Kars area are very scanty (with the exception of the inscriptions). In the Lower Çoruh valley, no evidence has been encountered of the kingdom of Urartu. So far as can be determined, the Urartians in the eighth century attempted to control the area as far as the sources of the Kura River by means of raiding campaigns in order to meet a portion of their needs for cattle and small livestock, like sheep and goats, in addition to horses and other sources of power. The mountain range of Yalnızçam that edges Ardahan to the northwest and west appears to have formed the limits of both the raiding campaigns of the Urartians and any traces of their culture. Based on the distribution of the archeological finds and a comparison of the statements in the inscriptions of the kinds of booty that were captured and of the descriptions of the topography, we may conclude that the name "Göle," a referent in the local vernacular for the area south of Ardahan, represents the ancient "Kola," that is, the land of Qulha. In this light, the only piece of evidence for the hypothesized connection between the kingdom of Urartu and the Lower Çoruh valley and Colchis on the coast of the Black Sea may be seen to have vanished.